MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Several lawmakers have applauded a judge's ruling that overturned Gov. Ron DeSantis' mask mandate ban for Florida schools.
On Friday, Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on the mandates is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
Cooper ruled that DeSantis overstepped his authority by issuing an executive order banning the mandates, adding that the order "is without legal authority."
"As the Senate Democratic Caucus has maintained, and Judge Cooper ruled today, the Governor overstepped his constitutional authority by ordering a blanket statewide mask ban. This politically driven power grab put the health and safety of millions of Florida's children, their families, and their communities at risk," state Senate Democratic leader Lauren Book said in a statement.
"I applaud the brave parents who brought forth this legal challenge, and the courageous leaders from 10 school districts who stood up to the Governor's unlawful orders and threats of retaliation in an effort to keep children safe," she added.
State Senator Shevrin Jones, who is the Vice-Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the judge's decision is a clear win for our state's parents, students, and educators.
"Throughout this crisis, the Governor and his allies have wrongly chosen to make matters of public health political, and as a result, have put millions of Floridians at risk. It was evident from the moment he issued his ban that it was unconstitutional and unenforceable, and I am grateful for the local elected officials who have stood strong to keep people healthy and safe during this crisis," he said in a statement.
"I applaud the judge on his wise ruling, and call on the Governor to stop standing in the way of local school officials trying to do what is best for the health of their students, their families, and their employees," said the state's Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz.
State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is challenging DeSantis for the governor's office, weighed in on the judge's decision, calling it "a win for common sense."
"Florida's judicial branch affirmed what we have known to be true: Governor DeSantis' ban on masks in schools is not only a dangerous government overreach that puts children's lives at risk, but it also violates Florida law. This ruling is a win for common sense, for children's safety, and for all the families and school officials who have been fighting to protect their loved ones, students, and staff," she said in a statement.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava posted on Twitter, I applaud this ruling by Judge Cooper. Utilizing every tool we have to protect our students and teachers from COVID should be – and must be – common sense. It's how we slow the spread and keep our community and families safe."
"Our protective instinct to guard the well-being of our students and communities was always on the mark. DeSantis' overreaching and dictator-like threats to school boards violated the law and impeded local authorities' ability to decide on health and safety matters," said Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade.
Dr. Mona Vishin Mangat, an immunologist and board member for the Committee to Protect Health Care, and who also testified at the three-day hearing in Tallahassee on behalf of the pro-mask families who brought the suit.
"This ruling is a much-needed win for Florida's children and families and should be a signal to Governor DeSantis that his top-down orders against local public health measures are both dangerous and unconstitutional. As both a physician and a mother of school-aged children, it is an immense relief to know that local school leaders can move forward with mask protections without being punished by Gov. DeSantis," she said in a statement.
Mangat pointed to the vast majority of health experts that have recommended universal masking in schools to protect the health of students. She added that the lawsuit could have been avoided if the governor had "simply chosen to put the safety of our kids ahead of his political pandering."
The governor's office has said they will appeal the ruling.
"This ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts – frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented. We are used to the Leon County Circuit Court not following the law and getting reversed on appeal, which is exactly what happened last year in the school reopening case. We will continue to defend the law and parent's rights in Florida, and will immediately appeal the ruling to the First District Court of Appeals, where we are confident we will prevail on the merits of the case," said spokeswoman Taryn Fenske in a statement.
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